Monday, April 05, 2010

Prague - Czech Republic

The Views: Apart from the joys of wandering around the city (as mentioned below) I was particularly impressed by the city's beauty. We took most opportunities to find a tower or hill to climb from which to view the city. The castle with its St Vitus cathedral sitting in the middle is a great sight from the opposite side of the Vltava river. Crossing the Charles bridge (the world's largest open air statue exhibition) there is a tower offering more great views including the dome topped library and many red roofs and churches (giving Prague the nickname - city of a hundred steeples).

Old Town - Prague

The Place: Spent four days in and around the bohemian city of Prague in the Czech Republic.
Some Features: We arrived a week before Easter so the old town square was filled with food stalls containing lots of a meat and some interesting baked goods including 'trdelniks' (pronunciation??), which is a pastry baked while wrapped around a wooden bar resembling a rolling pin. In the middle of the square was a stage with various Easter performances, some traditional Czech and some from around the globe. Every hour on the hour a skeleton rings the bell forming part of the astronomical clock which tells both the time and indicates the relative positions of the sun, moon and various zodiacal constellations. Wandering around the town it became clear they love their colourful glass art, madryoshkas (3rd pic from top), classical music (Mozart spent allot of time in Prague), marionettes, beer (cheaper than coffee or bottled water), and absinthe! (it burns). We watched a marionette opera which was very entertaining though very long (which did make me respect the puppeteers considering they had a movement for every note of the opera that brought the puppets alive). We went out at night and got to experience a few old traditional pubs, some live blues music and jazz, as well as some dance clubs. Also visited the Franz Kafka museum which was well equipped with Kafkaesque props which gave some insightful background into his books such as 'The Castle', ' The Trial', and 'The Metamorphosis' which are written before the Austro-Hungarian empire became the communist Czechoslovakia.

Sedlec - Czech Republic

The Place: Close to Kutna Hora, and an hour and a half outside of Prague lies the tiny town of Sedlec.
The Feature: Sedlec is known for its Ossuary, a chapel decorated using thousands of human skeletons. The story behind it is that one of the abbots was sent to Palestine in 1278. He brought back with him 'holy' soil from Golgotha and placed it in the cemetery. Believing that the soil was blessed it became a popular burial ground for europeans and was enlarged through the burial of over 30000 people. Between 1400 and 1500 a new church was built on the spot and the bones were dug up and kept. Much later, around 1870, a woodcarver was commissioned to put the heaps of bones in some order and resulted in him making artworks including a chandelier containing all the types of bones of the human body, big cups made out of skulls and bones, a coat of arms including a persons eye being pecked out by a rook, and in all four corners of the chapel tall pyramids of human bones bound together loosely.